A local osteopath has accused the Health Department of racism after unverified claims from a senior doctor that he was “unscrupulous” and a “likely” threat to vulnerable islanders nearly left his 42-year career in tatters.
Badrul Huda claims his reputation as a medical practitioner was tarnished by the department believing what he says were unfounded allegations made by a former patient without either consulting him or conducting a full investigation.
He appeared before the States Complaints Board - an independent panel tasked with investigating unresolved grievances with departments - to state his case yesterday.
At the heart of Mr Huda’s complaint is the fact that his former patient’s allegations were referred to the General Osteopathic Council (GOC) - where he is registered as a medical practitioner – without informing him of the accusations or asking him for his own account of what happened.
When the patient’s allegations were referred to the GOC, the case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence, but Mr Huda maintains that his reputation has been damaged by the way the department handled the process.
Pictured: The States Complaints Board heard evidence on Badrul Huda's complaint against the Health Department.
Mr Huda said he particularly took issue with how Jersey’s Medical Officer for Health Dr Susan Turnbull referred to him in email correspondence. He explained that he felt disrespected by the fact she had repeatedly referred to him as “Huda” and not “Mr Huda”, while using the patient's title.
He suggested that this was evidence the department’s actions were maliciously and even racially motivated.
Having learned of Mr Huda's former patient's allegations via the former Health Minister, Dr Turnbull sent a strongly-worded email to a number of individuals in the Health Department expressing concerns about his practice - despite not having investigated the issue further.
“I am very concerned that Huda, left unchecked, is quite likely to be risking the health of other vulnerable (gullible) islanders, possibly believing that he has medical credentials," she wrote.
Pictured: Medical Officer of Health Dr Susan Turnbull called Mr Huda an "unscrupulous practitioner".
In a further email, Dr Turnbull called Mr Huda an “unscrupulous practitioner who is bringing the GOC and its register of osteopaths into disrepute…”
Giving evidence before the Board, Dr Turnbull appeared to stand by her words. She reasoned: “I was very, very concerned about the content of what the patient had reported… I was extremely perturbed that a practitioner capable of doing what the patient had reported was still practicing in the island.”
The Medical Health Officer said that the words she used in her emails to other members of the department reflected her “professional opinion” and that she was aware that no investigation into Mr Huda’s practice had taken place in Jersey at the time.
He told the Board that he had been living in Jersey for 42 years and that he had built a respectable position in the island’s community, but, he said that the tone of this correspondence as well as not affording him his title made him feel “small”.
Pictured: Mr Huda said that the Health Department's behaviour left him feeling "totally alienated".
SCB Chairman Geoffrey Crill - quizzing Mr Huda further on why he felt this was evidence of malice or racial prejudice - said although he appreciated being the subject of a professional investigation was an unpleasant experience, that “people can have a point of view but still maintain a view without prejudice”.
Mr Huda replied: “There is a slight difference here: you are all white and I’m coloured. Who would brand somebody without even investigating the matter and form such an opinion?... When it went to the GOC there wasn’t a single piece of evidence that could find me guilty… Where is the respect? Why have these guys totally alienated me and treated me in that degrading way?”
Director of Community Care and Health Chris Dunne, who also gave evidence at the hearing, accepted that not affording Mr Huda his title was insulting. “I agree that is disrespectful and I sincerely apologise," he said.
However, Mr Dunne also strenuously denied any claims that the Department acted maliciously. He told the SCB: “Categorically, there is no malicious intent involved with this and no racial prejudice involved with this.”
Pictured: The SCB hearing took place in the States building.
Mr Huda also objected to the fact he hadn’t been informed of his former patient’s allegations before they were referred to the GOC. As the patient was classed as a vulnerable adult, this responsibility fell to the Adult Safeguarding Board. Mr Dunne, as the Former Director of Adult Services, acknowledged that “there were several errors” in Mr Huda’s case – including the fact he wasn’t informed of the referral to his regulatory body.
The SCB will now consider the evidence given at the hearing and reach a decision on the matter. If they uphold Mr Huda’s complaint, they will make recommendations to the Health Minister in light of his concerns.
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